Ask me what I did this past weekend. Go ahead, ask me.
I helped launch a new convention! Not that I planned, organized, or staffed it — but I showed up, paid to get in, spent a lot of time (and a little bit of money) on the show floor and in the programming rooms, mixed and mingled, and did everything I could as an attendee to help make the show a success. And it seems to have worked. The event was Awesome Con DC — a brand-new comic-book and pop-culture convention held at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center on Saturday and Sunday — and early this morning the organizers announced that Awesome Con DC 2014 is a go.
A microcosmic version of city-wide behemoths like San Diego’s International Comic-Con and New York Comic-Con, Awesome Con seemed to meet pent-up demand for a big-tent comic show in D.C. proper. People were just really happy to be there, and the sense of community was palpable and infectious. It was a happy case of a meeting serving a built-in market, as The Washington Post noted in a preview article on Friday:
What once was considered lowbrow culture has become, to a large degree, simply culture. “If you had told me when I was a kid that ‘The Avengers’ would become the third-highest grossing movie of all time, I wouldn’t have believed you,” says the 30-year-old [Awesome Con coordinator Ben] Penrod, who, as a teen, cut his teeth in the Annapolis comic book store Another Universe. Penrod, having organized conventions in that city as well as in Waldorf, says he felt Washington was ripe for its own event, thanks to its thriving art scene, plentiful colleges and a recent influx of young professionals.
And while I’ve grown accustomed to my hobbies and interesting filtering into my job — the great thing about covering meetings and conventions is that they’re so universal they allow you to write about pretty much anything — on Saturday I found my job filtering into my hobbies and interests. I’ve been to Walter E. Washington any number of times, participating in meetings industry events on behalf of PCMA and attending conferences that will serve as the basis for articles in Convene. But being there for myself, joined by my younger daughter, was something altogether different, because everything I’ve learned during my years with PCMA and Convene informed my experience as an average attendee.
I knew without checking the schedule that, in addition to a show floor, there would be programming sessions in the meeting rooms outside, because Awesome Con was a professionally organized, classically structured event. I critiqued the layout of the show floor (in my head, of course, and constructively). I applauded the drawing workshops, gaming rooms, costume contests, and other interactive, hands-on programs that we like to write about in Convene, and was especially thankful for the Kids Are Awesome room, where my daughter spent a happy half-hour coloring on Saturday afternoon.
At a certain point, I wasn’t sure if I was a comic-book fan dabbling in meeting planning, or a meeting professional enjoying a particularly fun show. The best word to describe that confusion, I think, is awesome.